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Tai Chi Proves Effective For Vestibular Disorders


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By Margarita Nahapetyan

It has recently been discovered by U.S. scientists that Tai Chi, a slow-moving form of Chinese martial arts that is often practiced for health benefits, may prove an effective treatment for individuals who experience dizziness and balance issues, known as vestibular disorders.

Dizziness can become a major problem for any person who suffers from the effects that interfere with balance. Dizziness, loss of balance as well as loss of spatial orientation is associated with the risk of falls, fractures, and hospitalization. Motion sickness that is linked to vestibular disorders can result in nausea and even vomiting.

Typical therapy for vestibular disorders includes drugs that are used in combination with head and eye exercises designed to help individuals suffering from vertigo and dizziness. The new findings suggest that Tai Chi might also be utilized as an effective therapy in order to reduce dizziness, especially if conventional measures do not prove to work. The new study also supports the results of previous studies which found that Tai Chi could help individuals who suffer from vertigo.

Tai chi implies a series of movements in which there is a lot of weight shifting and training in how to stand, how to maintain balance and how to move, explained Jean Latz Griffin, president of the International Taoist Tai Chi Societies Midwest branch in Arlington Heights.

Dr. Paul Lee of the New York Eye and Ear Institute has studied the utility of Tai Chi in managing patients who had suffered from vestibular issues and who have failed conventional vestibular therapy. Conventional therapy, in general, involves a customized set of exercises including movements of the head, body and the eyes. Treatment could also include individually prescribed physical therapy or different types of physical maneuvers that a physician performs on a patient.

For their new study purposes, Dr. Lee and his colleagues used the activities-specific balance confidence scale and dynamic gait index survey - both prior to therapy and at the end of a two-month course. A total of 21 rehabilitation program outpatients - 18 women and 3 men - took part in the study from April 2008 to March 2009. All of the volunteers were asked to fill out two questionnaires which measured their fear of falling, along with other balance measures, before and after an 8-week course in Tai Chi.

As a result, patients overall demonstrated significant improvements in both the frequency and severity of their balance issues and vertigo. In addition, they showed a greater confidence when it came to performing everyday tasks, and decreased fear of falling, according to Dr. Lee. The investigators theorized that the technique may be effective because Tai Chi promotes coordination through relaxation, rather than muscular coordination.

The new study was presented last month at the 2009 American Academy of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery Foundation (AAO-HNSF) Annual Meeting & OTO EXPO in San Diego.

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